By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – There is no substitute for experience as the Iowa women’s basketball team showed on Sunday by edging Big Ten leader Indiana 91-85 in a double overtime thriller at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Senior guards Kathleen Doyle and Makenzie Meyer were the difference down the stretch for Iowa as their grit, poise and productivity helped carry the Hawkeyes to a victory against an opponent that hadn’t lost a conference game until Sunday.
Doyle and Meyer combined for 48 points, including 31 by Doyle, 13 assists, 13 rebounds and five steals. They also combined to score 13 of Iowa's 14 points in the second overtime, and did it against one of best defensive teams in the Big Ten.
Doyle was also just one rebound shy from recording what would have been her first career double-double as she also had 10 assists and nine rebounds while playing over 47 minutes.
“I think it was big,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of having two senior guards lead the way. “But I think (Indiana) is pretty experienced as well.
“But yeah, you’ve got these guys out there and you feel pretty confident right? They’ve just been through it all.”
An Iowa team that many thought would be rebuilding this season after being hit hard by graduation is now tied for first place in the conference standings at 4-1 and 13-3 overall.
Iowa has won four games in a row and also extended its home-court winning streak to 30 games, which is the second longest active streak in the nation behind Baylor.
Doyle said she was playing on adrenaline late in the game, and she also fed off the energy from the fans.
Sunday's paid attendance was listed at 7,397 and they made a lot of noise.
“Our crowd is amazing, too,” Doyle said. “That really helps. I mean a double-overtime game on your home floor and you haven’t lost on your home floor, I don’t know what the streak is at.”
Meyer then interrupted her fellow senior backcourt partner during the post-game press conference to say that the streak had reached 30 games. The room then erupted in laughter.
“We haven’t lost on our home floor in a really long time and it’s obviously just the will to win and I just want to do it for my teammates and everyone does a great job of bringing that energy," Doyle said.."So it’s kind of you just do what you have to do in this Big Ten season, and it’s definitely worth it.”
Iowa just finished a three-game stretch over the past week where it defeated Northwestern on the road and nationbally ranked opponents Maryland and Indiana at home.
Bluder was asked after Sunday’s game how it felt to be in first place.
“Good to me,” she said. “You certainly want it at the end of the year, but we’ll take it at any time.
“There’s a lot of basketball to be played and we know that. And now we’ve got to go on the road with two games this week. It’s never easy on the road in the Big Ten. So we know we’ll have our work cut out for us this week.”
Iowa will play at Minnesota on Thursday and at Wisconsin next Sunday.
“It was a good week-and-a-half, it really was,” Bluder said.
The question now is will Iowa be ranked when it heads back on the road?
“I think we are,” Bluder said when asked if she believes that Iowa is one of the top 25 teams in the country. “We just beat two top 25 (opponents). I know we were getting votes before the week, I think.
“I know I’m probably biased. I am. You know, do you love you love your own kid? Yeah. You love your own kid. But I think we are. Why not us.”
Iowa was trailing 74-72 with 4.9 seconds left in regulation when Doyle drove to the basket and made a shot off the glass while also drawing a foul.
However, she missed the potential go-ahead free throw and that left Indiana with a chance to still win the game in regulation.
The Hoosiers missed a shot right before the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
“My teammates did a great job of pulling me out of that and just pushing me forward into that overtime,” Doyle said. “Obviously, I was disappointed to leave that one out there, but there is nothing you can do about it. Just play that next five minutes and get it done.”
Freshman McKenna Warnock provided a spark off the bench with 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Minnesota native credited her two senior guards for helping her stay poised.
“The leadership is just amazing on the team,” Warnock said. “So it really helps just down the stretch in a big game. It helps in practice and it’s always there in practice and games.”
Iowa suffered a blow when sophomore center Monika Czinano fouled out with 3:20 left in the first overtime and with the score knotted at 76. Czinano finished with 23 points and made 7-of-8 free throw attempts.
But her teammates still found a way to prevail without her.
Indiana built a 10-point lead early in the third quarter at 44-34, but then Iowa went on a 10-0 scoring run to even the score at 44.
The Hoosiers then answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play, but then Iowa answered right back with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Meyer, tying the score 47 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
Freshman guard Gabbie Marshall then made a breakaway layup to give Iowa a 49-47 lead, but the Hoosiers answered with two free throws by Grace Berger with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
The third quarter ended with Iowa leading 53-51, but the Hoosiers quickly erased the deficit in the fourth quarter and took a 59-53 lead on a basket by Jaelynn Penn with less than eight minutes to play.
Indiana was leading 34-20 and pretty much having its way on both ends of the court when Iowa went on a 9-0 scoring run late in the second quarter.
The Hoosiers finally made a free throw to stop the run, but then Doyle made one of two free throws that trimmed the deficit to 35-30 with 1:05 left in the second quarter.
Doyle then made a shot off the glass that brought Iowa to within 35-32, but the Hoosiers answered with a basket in the final seconds that gave them a 37-32 lead at the break.
Neither team shot well from 3-point range in the first half as Iowa made just 1-of-5 attempts from behind the arc and Indiana was just 2-of-11.
Iowa also struggled with ball security in the first half, committing 10 turnovers, although, much of that was due to Indiana’s aggressiveness on defense.
Doyle led Iowa in scoring in the first half with 14 points, while Czinano had nine.
Meyer finished with 17 points overall, but she only had two points in the first half.
Meyer made a 3-point basket that gave Iowa an 83-80 lead with 2:52 left in the second overtime. Iowa would never trail again.
“I was really confident in that shot and I knew it was a big moment,” Meyer said.